Most family law clients prefer to minimize their attorney’s fees, but their actions don’t always match their preference! You may not realize how providing your attorney with incomplete or inaccurate information, leaving vague phone messages, sending continual unnecessary emails, or signing documents without your attorney’s knowledge can increase the amount of time your attorney must spend on your case. This blog offers five tips to keep your case and attorney-client relationship running smoothly during your divorce.
- Though it may seem almost too obvious, your total honesty is one of the most important qualities you can bring to the table to assure a strong, smooth working relationship between you and your attorney. No one likes to feel judged so we sometimes makes the mistake of holding back negative information about ourselves or even our spouses in our attorney-client discussions.
Your attorney is first and foremost your advocate, hired to protect your interests in the divorce. Tell your attorney the very worst about your case as early as possible so your attorney can be fully prepared to deal with the negative information. The worst thing you can do is to allow your attorney to be surprised by unfavorable information at a hearing or trial. The judge can tell that your attorney was caught unaware, hurting your own credibility in the end. Attorneys are skilled at presenting negative facts in the most favorable light possible. Help your attorney do her best job by telling her all of the truth at the beginning of your case.
- Be organized throughout your case. Be prepared for your initial attorney consultation by taking with you any legal documents you’ve already received, copies of recent tax returns, recent pay stubs for you and your spouse, and a complete list of all of your marital and individual (if any) assets and liabilities.
- When providing your attorney with more documentation, be sure the documents are always neatly organized and labeled. If there is a deadline for providing documents, don’t wait until the last minute to give your attorney the documents.
- Always consult with your attorney before meeting with an expert in your case, before a hearing, or before a deposition. Your attorney’s office will usually contact you to schedule an office appointment before such important events. If you haven’t been contacted, take responsibility and contact your attorney to arrange such a meeting so you are thoroughly prepared for your expert meeting, hearing or deposition.
- Never sign any document or agreement provided by your divorcing spouse without talking to your attorney first. Agreement between parties can be positive, but only if your attorney has first helped you identify any problematic terms in a document or proposed agreement. If you are being pressured to sign or agree immediately, this is a BIG RED FLAG to stop and seek the advice of your attorney right away.
- Pay your attorney’s bills promptly. If this is not possible, contact your attorney to make delayed payment arrangements. Most attorneys are able to work with you to develop a payment plan when necessary, but be proactive about asking for this accommodation. Don’t let your payments get too far behind.
Jeanne Coleman, Esq. has represented family law clients in the Tampa Bay area for over twenty-five years. Her Law Office also provides legal representation in dependency and social security disability cases. In addition to being a highly experienced trial lawyer, Jeanne is a trained collaborative divorce attorney offering a reduced rate collaborative divorce process for lower income/asset cases. Contact her Law Office.